Beaumont’s Field of Dreams

By JOE McFARLAND

The buzz of baseball is beckoning in Beaumont.

With summer fast-approaching and the hope that COVID-19 restrictions will be eased for summer sports to begin, the community recently received another blast of positive news.

On May 7th, it was announced the city just southeast of Edmonton was named one of 14 across Canada to receive a Jays Care “Field of Dreams” grant.

Council had already committed to building four multi-use diamonds at the new West Recreation Centre. The additional funding will allow for a fifth to be added.

“This past year and a half has been incredibly tough for our players due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Beaumont Minor Baseball Association (BMBA) president Scott Kadatz said in a statement. “This is some incredibly exciting news for our players, coaches, parents, volunteers, and the entire community of Beaumont.”

When speaking with organizers and baseball enthusiasts in the community, it’s hard not to notice how awestruck they are.

If all goes according to plan, they hope spring 2022 will be a big one for all baseball families.

THE ON-DECK CIRCLE

Warren Chandler’s ear-to-ear grin hasn’t left his face since hearing the news, especially as he looks back at the evolution of the project.

Back in September 2020, Beaumont council approved the development of city-owned land on the west side of the community. The plan was for a baseball complex and off-leash dog park, with the shovels to hit the ground this spring.

The original plan called for four multi-use diamonds, but Chandler, who serves as the BMBA development and fundraising coordinator, knew demand was even stronger.

“Our city and our baseball association is growing every single year,” Chandler told Alberta Dugout Stories. “We even have our very first girls baseball program this year, where we have all-girls teams at every level from 13U right down to Rally Cap.”

As the association started making its plans for the fields, members realized there was a hole to fill in the 11-13 age category.

After watching the Jays Care announcement in 2020, Chandler noticed there wasn’t an Alberta community on the list. So he started doing some research.

“I texted my buddy Bryce, who is also on our board, and I said, ‘What do you think about applying for this?'” Chandler recalled. “We laughed at first, but then we started getting serious and we couldn’t think of a good reason not to apply.”

Only three Alberta communities had received the grant previously, and with all the province has been dealing with, Chandler believed it was worth a shot.

“We really felt we had a great story to tell here in Beaumont and we felt with the timing of the city project, maybe the stars would align for us,” Chandler said. “Most important of all, our kids out here deserve this, they really do, so we thought maybe it was time to put an Alberta community on the map for 2021.”

MAKE IT FIVE

Chandler and the team then went about filling in the appropriate paperwork. They also made a video featuring players from their league, trying to make the case for the funding.

Then, they waited.

In December, the Blue Jays told Chandler that their application had made it past the first round of consideration. He says they were happy to make it that far, but were then on pins-and-needles, waiting to find out if they had won.

Sure enough, as has happened in the past, the results were announced during a Blue Jays game on Sportsnet. And the furthest west community to receive a grant was Beaumont.

“It’s hard to put into words, to be honest,” Chandler said of the feeling. “It was exciting for sure. But it was also a huge moment of pride for all of us working on this project and on the grant.”

He added there was a little relief as well, because they knew how important the project would be to the community.

Shortly after the announcement, Chandler’s phone went crazy with notifications and text messages, congratulating everyone on the victory.

“My only regret was that we didn’t get to watch the announcement with all 400 of our kids in a gymnasium at the same time,” he laughed. “Now that would have been epic!”

BUILDING THE FIELD OF DREAMS

The hope now is that when the COVID-19 pandemic starts to ease, the community can have a major opening celebration of the new complex next spring.

Not only that, they hope to become a hub for baseball for Beaumont and neighbouring communities.

“This means we can provide more baseball programming now, more kids playing on great fields and less kids having to travel outside of Beaumont to play baseball,” Chandler said. “It also means we won’t have to cap our registration for the 10-13 year olds anymore.”

He’s also hoping they will be able to host tournaments and championships, which will help become a driver for local business in the summer months.

But Chandler, who is quick to credit the entire board and community for their vision in seeing baseball grow in Beaumont, also sees a bigger picture story to tell the kids of his community and others around Alberta.

“It means that when we teach our kids to dream big, we can show them the field they are standing on and what can happen,” Chandler smiled. “It means our kids can see the result of big dreams, so in that regard, it means absolutely everything.”

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